Ranchers Will Protect and Invest in Brazilian Forest Land That They Own

(p. A1) POMBAL, Brazil—For the past 15 years, Carlos Pacheco has raised cattle in what was once virgin forest. When pastures went bad, he would simply cut deeper into the Amazon, one of millions of farmers who have helped strip away about a fifth of the world’s greatest rainforest.

Because he expanded into land he doesn’t own, he can’t use it as collateral for a loan to buy equipment and fertilizer, nor can he tap the expertise of a government agronomist. The upshot is that he uses more land to raise each cow than do legal farmers in the breadbasket of southern Brazil.

It may sound counterintuitive, but Brazilian authorities think giving Mr. Pacheco a deed to the land he farms might curtail deforestation. The idea is it could help him become a more efficient farmer, able to produce more on less land, and also make him hesitate to just walk away from depleted pastures and carve new ones. In short, it might discourage him and squatters like him from cutting ever deeper into the jungle.

“If this doesn’t happen, we will continue to deforest,” said the 49-year-old rancher, the leader of a tightknit group of several hundred settlers on the forest frontier.

The administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wants to see if he is right. In February [2020], it plans to start handing out deeds to some 300,000 Amazon squatters, with a plan that might help but has raised a howl of disapproval for re-(p. A12)warding bad behavior.

. . .

Over the decades, 73-year-old cattleman João Bueno cut into the forest in Pará state to build a network of ranches totaling 45,000 acres, with 28,000 head of cattle.

He has a special document that allows him to produce and sell cattle to a slaughterhouse, but it isn’t a title, so it doesn’t allow him to use the land as loan collateral. Mr. Bueno said tapping credit would permit him to modernize his operation with fertilizer and techniques common elsewhere, raising three times as many head of cattle on the same acreage.

“Land without documentation is nobody’s land, so people take advantage of it to clear forest for pastures,” Mr. Bueno said.

For the full story, see:

Paulo Trevisani and Juan Forero. “Brazil’s Unusual Bid to Curb Deforestation.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, February 1, 2020): A1 & A12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date January 31, 2020, and has the title “Squatters Cut Down the Rainforest. Brazil Wants to Give Them the Land.”)

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